Monday, January 30, 2017

Voyageurs National Park: Black Bay Ski Trails

After a few weeks of warm weather, and even a bit of rain, I finally got out for a ski in lightly falling snow. I headed out on the ice road to the Black Bay Ski Trail system. Two weeks ago I had skied the easy Birch Trail Loop under beautiful blue sky. The best thing about the Birch Loop are the open areas that the trail travels through, offering some nice views.
Black Bay Ski Trail
ski trail through wetland
Today, however, I would set out on the more difficult Pine Trail, a figure-8 trail.

The Pine Trail leaves the Birch Loop after a short distance and quickly makes its way to a large beaver pond. This is the same beaver pond that the Black Bay Beaver Pond Trail ends at. I saw two beaver lodges on the pond and skied off trail to have a look. The one at the further end of the pond is quite large.
snow covered beaver lodge
There is also a large white pine that has been recently felled by the resident beavers.
chewed white pine
I continued on back into the woods
skiing Eric
and stopped for a water break at a nice trail shelter.
resting in shelter
Then I headed out on the back part of the figure-8.
pine loop
This section of trail had a few difficult sections. The recent warmth exposed a few rocks and underneath the day's thin layer of new snow was an icy surface.

There were more beaver ponds on the back section,
sun trying to peek out
and again I skied off trail to have a look around. Besides at least 6 beaver lodges,
two beaver lodges
there was a large nest
eagle nest
(I'm guessing an eagle nest) and a woodpecker home at one of the ponds.
woodpecker snag
I skied past one final beaver pond
another beaver pond
before reconnecting with the Birch Trail for the short ski back to the parking area.

 

Update of January 31, 2017: 

Today I headed back to the Black Bay Trails. This time I would ski the Ridge Loop, which is rated as difficult. I started off on the easy Birch Loop
trail through the woods
in some really pretty, snow-covered scenery. Pretty quickly I made my way to the intersection with the Ridge Trail.
Ridge Trail
Like the trail's name suggests, it largely follows a ridge. There were plenty of hills
the trail down
(the trail actually seemed to be constantly either ascending or descending). Most of the hills were well marked with warning signs. Not all of them were though. This warning sign marked a couple of deep holes right off to the side of the trail.
holes

One of the most interesting parts of the Ridge Trail was a large beaver pond that it traversed.
beaver pond 2
There were lots of beaver lodges like the ponds I had skied through yesterday. Then the trail climbed up a ridge above the pond and headed into a cathedral-like copse of pine trees.
in the pines
After a while in the forest the Ridge Trail intersected with the Pine Trail,
snow covered boulder
which I had skied yesterday. I enjoyed the views from the Pine Trail again, especially the beaver ponds the trail circumvented. 
another pond

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